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English / 14.03.2020 / 548

Heavenly place

Nikolay Mokhov, author from the Dark Side of Business

Far away from the yacht, closer to the shore, tourists were surfing the sea on water skis and jet skis. Children were wading in shallow water, and you could watch them from the little white house on the slope. From this house, you could hear the laughter of the vacationists, the squeals of the children and the roars of the engines. The housing in this area was blatantly called the “Heavenly place”. And in this heavenly place, an older couple was discussing their plans for the day:

— Where should we go today?

— Should we go swimming?

Valya looked at Polina sleepily. His eyes were locked on her. He examined her closely. Wrinkles were starting to show on her skin… He never noticed them before. He remembered her as a girl whom he once asked out on a date.

— No, — she replied.

Valya was cocky. He didn’t accept rejections. He had a powerful car — a white Toyota Mark II — people would call them «Morkovnik». On his «Morkovnik», he stood outside the office building where Polina worked. When he spotted her by the exit, he firmly approached her:

— I’m not gonna leave without you, — he said with confidence. He looked in her brown eyes with a confrontational gaze.

He wanted to build his heaven, and his children to live in this heavenly garden

— Go away. I don’t understand — why did you come here?

— I came here for you! And I won’t leave without you. And if you don’t go on a date with me, then I’ll keep coming here every day.

The office turned into a fortress. Valya led the siege, while Polina was given the role of the princess. A week later, she gave up. Later on, in bed, she would tell him:

— At first, I really didn’t like you...

He listened to her revelations with pleasure. Tall, wearing big funny glasses with overly fat lenses… Nobody liked him. But Valya knew — if he wanted something, he wouldn’t be rejected. One day, his future business partners — a huge store chain — didn’t want to take his product. To be more precise, the price they offered for his product to be put on the shelves was excessively high. The aspiring entrepreneur didn’t have that much money.
Thus, the guy grabbed a massive red bag, got dressed up as Santa Claus — despite the fact that it was happening in the middle of summer — and came to the head office of the store chain. He came to the chain’s owner and sat down in his waiting room.
The office secretaries were clueless — what were they meant to do with him? How could they politely get rid of him? Later, they gave up and stopped paying attention. All up until the chain’s owner showed up — a “kolobok” man — chubby and humorous:

— New Year’s Eve in the middle of June?! How creative! Who might you be?

— I wanna work with you. However, your managers won’t allow that without a bribe. I have no money for a bribe...

— And what’s that in your bag? A bomb?

— No. The bag contains my product and a bottle of tequila from Mexico.

— Well then, come in...

Valya liked it when the situation was under his control. People didn’t perceive any danger or power in him, which was useful. Not many could spot the shark of capitalism in a man who’d sometimes speak incoherently, and when talking to strangers, could even blush from his own awkward words and movements…

— Polina, what did you see in him? — her friends were asking before the wedding.

— By him, I feel as safe, as if I was behind a stone wall . He can solve any problem.

Of course, Polina had other love affairs happening on the side. Just to dispel boredom, to feel the spice of life. To experience that sweet feeling of breaking a rule. When she was a child, her mom used to keep candies specifically for New Year’s Eve. It was forbidden to eat them before the celebration. Polina used to find them and eat a few of them. Not because she craved something sweet, but because it felt good to have your own little secret. To know that she is capable of that… At age six, she was excited by candy theft. At age thirty — by infidelity.

However, she didn't stay in touch for long with any of her lovers. The sweet taste of cheating was quick to disappear. It happened whenever Polya would compare yet another admirer with her husband. Her admirers were richer, younger… But they lacked that adamant, unyielding willpower. The willpower that Valya was literally filled with. And whenever he grabbed her by the neck with his long fingers, whenever he stroked her back… She felt the electric impulses of his willpower and she wanted to say… Well, she was saying:

— Take me...

She was bending, sticking her butt out…
The wind from the sea played with the curtains in the bedroom, as though it blew away the old memories. On hot days, everyone would usually turn the air conditioning on and have it on full power, but Valya enjoyed feeling the sea breeze.

— Did the kids call? — he asked Polya.

— No, but maybe you could call Kostya?

— I won’t… He’ll show up once he’ll run out of money.

Kostya — a firstborn and a huge disappointment in Valya’s life. The heir didn’t match his father. The apple fell very far from the tree. Valya was a fighter. Kostya, on the other hand, was easily influenced by those who surrounded him. In Moscow, Valya’s son blended in with the “golden youth”. The teenagers would carry around piles of money and spend it all on clothes.

— It would have been better if he was a hooligan, — said Valya. Polina and him discussed their son’s stunts for a long time.

— Kostya doesn’t want anything, — whined Polya to her mother.

In the end, the child was sent to England. He was provided with a limited budget. His parents were hoping that the harsh financial circumstances would make him fight for his life. Nothing worked out. Kostya decided to manifest himself as a philosopher, and now, he even led a YouTube channel dedicated to the history of the Middle Ages. Their last conversation ended in a scandal:

— What will you do? — Valya asked.

— I’ll be a medievalist.

— You’ll be a freeloader. Now, tell me: what is it that you’re doing?

— I’m studying the history of the Middle Ages... And you really remind me of Henry VIII.

— I know no Henry… I thought that you’ll be my heir. I thought that you’ll run a business.

— Henry was also quite unlucky when it came to his heirs…

— You should understand, a man must earn money. Like you… When you’ll like a girl, what will you be able to offer to her? You won’t even be able to take care of her.

— Not everything can be measured by money.

— Yeah, tell your queen about it...

The arguments ended with nothing. Sometimes, Kostya asked for money. He didn’t call his father, he called his mother instead. Polya knew that her son wanted to establish a scientific career and supported him in various ways. But only in secret. She didn’t want to cross her husband. Not because she was scared, but because she found it pointless.

Valya had high hopes for his daughter. Alexandra is an active, wayward girl… Which is exactly why she stayed as far away from her family as she possibly could. On her eighteenth birthday, she moved to Australia.

— I wanna understand – what should I do next? You know, in Europe it’s popular to travel after finishing your studies.

Valya didn’t care. He loved his daughter, he was sending her a stable monthly allowance and even listened to her stories about a country which he had absolutely no interest in.

— The sun here is something else… On the first day, I didn’t put any sunscreen lotion on and ended up getting sunburnt… My temperature rose… I thought I’d die… James helped me. You know, he is so caring.

Valya carefully looked at the computer screen to examine the English descendant in a ridiculous green top, he had to make an effort to convert his outrage into a smile. When talking to strangers, he always praised his children. They are so clever, wonderful, they know so many languages… But the children were his failure. This was a situation that was out of his control.

— There is nothing I can do about them...

When Valya realized this, he began crying. Half a century ago, he had a dream. A boy from a poor family planned to get back at destiny for all his grudges. He wanted to establish his kin. He wanted to build a large house — an ancestral home of his own. He wanted his business and practice to be passed on to his heirs, for him to then babysit his grandchildren. He wanted to build his heaven, and his children to live in this heavenly garden.

Who would have known that the children will have their own perceptions of heaven? From his school curriculum, he remembered how his teacher once quoted either Tolstoy or Dostoevsky:

— Misery is different for everyone, yet happiness always looks the same.

Lies, same as all this literature. Misery is what always looks the same: poverty and diseases. But happiness… His children damaged his willpower. There was no point in holding on to his company. He sold his business quickly, as soon as he finished listening to the retired general’s offer. Although, the general liked to joke that there is no such thing as retirement in their profession.
Everyone knew of Valya’s character — he would fight until the end to protect his creation. And for that reason, the selling of his firm shocked the marketplace. There were rumors printed in the business publications: Valentin was pressured into this, it wasn’t a sale — it was a raider seizure from the government officials… Even before this, Valya had no trust in these newspapers.

— What can a penniless journalist understand about business? — he would say, refusing to give interviews.

What’s truly surprising is this: his acquaintances read and discussed the ridiculous rumors. They believed that he got screwed by the security officers. He tried to dissuade them, but despite his friends’ nodding, he could sense it — they didn’t believe him.

— Let’s move to a warm country. We’d live by the sea, — Polya was trying to convince him for a long time. Valya obeyed. After all, there was nothing for him in Moscow, he was annoyed by everything. Most of all, he was annoyed by the people. Empty and mindless...

— Should we go swimming? — Polya repeated her question. Valya hasn’t worn glasses in a long time. He fixed his eyesight back in the 2000’s. Nevertheless, his habit to squint remained the same. He looked at Polya, with his eyes squinting. Wow... He lived with her for so many years. Whenever he looked at her, his crafty brain envisioned an image of the girl he was trying to win while dashing on his «Morkovnik».

But now, he saw no girl in front of him. He saw an unfamiliar, unpleasant older woman. She was struggling with wrinkles, with artificial teeth implanted in the States and breasts lifted by the surgeons in Switzerland. However, the arms and the neck gave away the real age of the old deceiver.

— You should go... I just wanna sit at the cafe this evening.

— Who are you planning to meet there?

— It’s just... There is someone interesting there...

— A lover?

— Don’t say such silly things, — Valya struggled to hold back his irritation, while his wife was getting ready.

Finally, the door got slammed downstairs — Polya just set off to lie around at the beach under the sun. Valya was just lying down. He was neither having a nap nor staying awake. He was waiting for the evening conversation. Sharpening his wording and questions. Today, he was concerned about the most important question...



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